Kerubino=s Disappointment with the Governors= Elections
The government was right to be suspicious of Kerubino. He was in secret talks with the SPLA and they planned a joint attack on Wau, supposedly for February 2, 1998, after Ramadan. 206
The "defection" of hundreds of SPLA forces to Kerubino was part of a plan whereby SPLA forces would be infiltrated into Wau and positioned for a surprise attack on the town.207 One SPLA source said that the soldiers who stopped Vice President Zubeir at the checkpoint to Kerubino's headquarters actually radioed to find out if they should arrest Zubeir. They were told not to do so, because that would ruin the planned attack on Wau.208
One reason given for Kerubino's decision to re-defect to the SPLA was that he believed that he had been double-crossed by the government, in at least two ways: he was not made deputy chairman of the SSCC as he believed he should have been (until it was too late), and the NIF backed candidates to oppose his gubernatorial candidates.
Kerubino was particularly angry because his deputy, Faustino Atem Gualdit (who spent five years in SPLA jails with Kerubino), lost the election to NIF candidate Arop Achier Akol in Tonj (Warab state); Arop Achier, a Dinka from Tonj who converted to Islam, is the stepbrother of George Kongor, an army officer and former governor of Bahr El Ghazal in Wau who is now second vice president. Achier was said to be as bad a governor as Kongor was good, falling asleep in meetings and otherwise neglecting his duties as governor.209
Kerubino is said to have believed that eight ministers in the Warab state government who voted in the governor=s election (although not entitled to vote, according to Riek) were offered money and promised positions by Arop, causing seven to vote for him. According to one source, most of these ministers were later dismissed by Arop, who appointed Aconverts to Islam@ in their places.210 For Kerubino and others, the NIF was behind this and its behavior was evidence that the NIF did not want to let the south govern itself. Kerubino blamed Riek for not appointing governors as Riek had the right to do under the Peace Agreement, but instead he let elections go forward in towns long under government control.211
Kerubino's plan to join with the SPLA and capture Wau, Aweil, and Gogrial was one of the worst-kept secrets of the war. Word spread widely in Wau, Khartoum, Nairobi, and elsewhere of the plan. Many, however, dismissed it as yet another of countless rumors.
MAP OF WAU
206 The three-day feast ending Ramadan started on January 28 and ended on Sunday, February 1, 1998.
207 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 2, 1998.
208 Human Rights Watch interview, Sudan, May 17, 1998.
209 Human Rights Watch interview, Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, May 8, 1998.
210 Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, May 11, 1998. In a telling remark, this Western-educated Dinka civil servant rather contemptuously dismissed these Dinka converts to Islam, saying, AThey had no place in Dinka society. They had nothing to lose.@ Ibid.
211 Human Rights Watch interview, Biel Torkech Rambang, December 14, 1998.